Fiore, a modern Italian cafe-restaurant from two pedigreed New York chefs, is now soft-open at 757 S. Front St. in the Queen Village building that years ago housed Frederick’s before The Village Belle and Kanella South.

Ed Crochet and Justine MacNeil are aiming at the neighborhood with an operation that starts in the morning and adds dinner once the liquor license comes though.

Now, it opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday, starting the day with breads and pastries served on the bar, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Savory dishes, such as toasts, go out closer to noontime. They expect to wrap by 3 p.m. “That’s the plan,” said MacNeil said. “It sounds like we’re wishy-washy. We just want to be flexible. If we find that people really want to come earlier, we’ll expand earlier. And if we find that people are kind of hanging out later, we’ll expand later.”

Baked goods at Fiore: Almond lemon ricotta cookie, brown butter and white chocolate biscotti, and rye chocolate chunk cookie.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Baked goods at Fiore: Almond lemon ricotta cookie, brown butter and white chocolate biscotti, and rye chocolate chunk cookie.

Dinner, which will begin after they acquire their liquor license, will be more ambitious. “A lot of the heart of it is Italian,” Crochet said. “It’s getting stuff from right around you. It’s seasonal cooking. It’s using what’s best right now as opposed to the recipe that we’ve done every single time up until now. I think that that sort of aesthetic and the way that Italians feel and cook food, it’s very, very similar. So I think the two mesh together very well. And I love pasta.”

“We’re calling it modern Italian because we wanted to figure out a way to say that we’re new American slash Italian without being the most wordy thing ever,” MacNeil said.

Crochet said to expect bold flavors. “There’s going to be some dishes that not everyone is going to like,” Crochet said, citing a chicory dish with anchovy dressing and pecorino on top.

“I like super sour vinaigrettes,” he said. "I like stuff that you remember afterward. “That’s the kind of food that we want to try to cook. And you know, fit that into the kind of generalized Italian setting. As far as dining is concerned, we want people to be as comfortable as possible. I think that family style is a really good way for people to have fun while they’re eating out.”

As for working together, Crochet said, “we also trust each other’s opinions about food pretty well, especially Italian food especially. We also know each other well enough to be like, ‘Hey, how is this?’ And the other one’s like, ‘No it’s not [good].’ Because that’s not how you react when the stuff tastes good.” It’s nice to have an honest and supportive foil for the stuff that you’re doing on a day to day basis so the goal was to get food that obviously tastes as good as possible. We make a good team in that regard.”

Pastries in the window at Fiore.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Pastries in the window at Fiore.

Crochet, 38, a Navy brat who grew up in Maryland and Italy and attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, and MacNeil, 30, who grew up in Jackson, N.J., and French Culinary Institute grad, met at Craft, one of Tom Colicchio’s restaurants. They both worked for Colicchio until MacNail went to work at Del Posto and Crochet left to work for Starr Restaurants at Storico on the Upper West Side.

When Starr Restaurants sold off its catering company, Crochet followed and ended up at Rat’s at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township, N.J. Starr Catering wanted him to move to Philadelphia, but he kept putting it off.

They both wanted to stop paying rent and buy something in New York.

“Once we started looking at housing prices, we realized it was never going to happen out there,” MacNeil said. “So we decided we were going to move down here. Once we decided to move down here, I was looking up jobs and I realized there weren’t a lot of jobs for a pastry chef in Philadelphia, unfortunately."

MacNeil began making and selling chocolates, and they bought a house in Kensington. MacNeil said they could cover their expenses on Crochet’s salary. “I was just going to open up a small bakery,” she said. "If that was successful, we would expand to include Ed. But a couple weeks after I was down here in Philadelphia and figuring out a business plan, Ed was like, ‘Let’s just do it now.’ Instead of waiting to do the whole thing, we just decided to dive in and just go for the ultimate goal all at once.”